lucid_chip_200The graphics chip market is an exclusive club with only a few big members: Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia. But Israeli startup LucidLogix Technologies hopes to break into the club with its innovative Hydra 200 chip.

That chip enables a game or other program to take advantage of all of the 3-D graphics chips in a computer, even if those graphics chips are different types or come from different vendors. Hence, a user could have a PC with an AMD graphics board and an Nvidia graphics board, and still make use of them. To date, whenever these chips are together in a system, it’s usually a marriage made in hell.

The Kfar Netter, Israel-based company has scored a major customer with Taiwan’s MSI, a major motherboard manufacturer, which has agreed to create a system board with the Hydra 200 chip on it. With a Hydra-based motherboard, a computer user could more easily upgrade to better system graphics simply by adding a new add-in card, even if that add-in card isn’t an exact match for what is already in the system, said Offir Remez, president of Lucid. The Hydra 200 handles the job of distributing the processing load across the different chips in a system.

MSI is calling its product the MSI Big Bang Gaming Motherboard. But what this really means is that LucidLogix is helping the industry reach a new level of customer-friendly maturity, like when car makers agreed at some point that you could put an oil filter on a car from any manufacturer. The computer industry is full of components and practices that tend to lock you into only one solution. Opening up that lock is important because graphics chips are the most expensive piece in computer hardware today.

“People want the flexibility to upgrade their system for maximum gaming performance at their convenience,” said Henry Lu, an executive at MSI. We’ve taken the guesswork out of adding graphics. It’s easy to change cards based on what brand and model you like, your budget or what titles you wish to support, whether you are an enthusiast gamer or a mainstream user.”

Today’s fastest game computers can tap as many as four graphics cards, either from AMD or Nvidia. But those cards have to be an exact match to work properly. That means that if someone wanted to upgrade their graphics, they would most likely have to add an exact match graphics card, buy a couple of new graphics cards and throw out the old one, or just buy a brand new system. The consumer also has to be pretty technically savvy to ensure compatibility. Now, the upgrade is easy and the consumer can make use of the older graphics card (though this still isn’t highly recommended for speed demons).

This chip is the company’s second-generation chip, and it works with Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. The company will be showing off working boards at the Intel Developer Forum conference in San Francisco this week. The Hydra 200 will be compatible with the designs for computers built around Intel’s newest processors. That’s no surprise, since Intel Capital is one of the investors in LucidLogix.

The company unveiled its plans in September, 2008. It is already generating revenue since it has a high-speed switching component that is used in supercomputers. LucidLogix has 60 employees and has raised $32 million to date. Besides Intel Capital, investors include Rho Ventures, Genesis Partners and Giza Venture Capital.

Moshe Steiner and Remez started LucidLogix a in 2005 with funding from chairman George Haber, who has run and invested in a string of chip companies.